Big Kids Need Vaccinations, Too
Your early years of parenting were likely filled with visits to the pediatrician for checkups, and for vaccinations to guard your children against serious diseases. You may have even thought those days would be over once you sent your kids to kindergarten. But that's not so - school-age kids need vaccinations, too.
Doctors can only give certain vaccinations to older children while other vaccines need updating, since most vaccinations only offer protection for a limited time. Here are the four vaccinations school-age children need:
This shot, called the meningococcal vaccine, fends off bacterial meningitis. It's a life-threatening infection of the lining that surrounds the brain and spinal cord.
Kids ages 16 to 23 are at an increased risk of contracting meningitis. Even with treatment, the illness kills about 10 percent of those it infects and causes severe disabilities to another 10 percent.
Adolescents and teens in Indiana and Illinois are required to receive the meningitis vaccination in two doses: usually once at age 11 and again at age 16.
Perhaps best known as "the flu shot," the influenza vaccine defends your child from the most common strains of flu that cause symptoms such as muscle aches, fatigue and sore throat.
The vaccine is updated to protect against whichever flu strains are thought to be most prevalent each year. That means your child should get an annual flu shot around October or November. That's the beginning of flu season, when the illness will usually start circulating around your child’s school. But don't wait until school age to protect your child with a flu shot. The vaccine is safe for children over six months of age.
When your child was younger, he likely received a vaccination called DTaP, which shielded him from bacteria that cause diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis. But the protective benefits wane over time. Around ages 11 or 12, your child should get the booster shot called Tdap. This booster shot is required for students in Indiana and Illinois.
Diphtheria is a disease that affects your throat and makes it hard to breathe. A tetanus infection causes your muscles to tighten or lock, and can lead to a painful condition called lockjaw (where you can't open your jaw to eat or drink). Pertussis, or whooping cough, causes violent coughing spells that make it difficult to catch your breath.
Human Papillomavirus Vaccination
The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common virus that's spread through sexual contact. In both men and women it can cause genital warts and lead to cancers including throat, penile and cervical cancers.
Boys and girls should get the vaccination around the age of 11 or 12, but you can start the series as early as age 9. Your pediatrician will give your child two shots spaced six to 12 months apart.
Vaccinations Save Lives
Be sure to speak with your child's primary care physician about their immunization schedule, track your child's vaccinations and keep them up to date. Don't forget to share this information with other parents. Your actions could help save lives.